When It’s Hard to Put Others First…
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2.3-4
People came from many nations and backgrounds to the Lausanne Committee 1980 Consultation on World Evangelization, held in Pattaya, Thailand. I was the communications editor for the event and my exposure to these servants of God from so many different countries changed my world view immensely.
But it was a simple story of two Americans that fleshed out this verse in a very real way.
Our venue was on the Gulf of Siam and rooms on one side of the hotel had a magnificent view of the ocean, while rooms across the hall saw only the ugly parking lot and dump outside their window. Boston area pastor Gordon MacDonald and seminary professor J. Christy Wilson arrived late at night and had gone straight to their shared room after a long travel day.
Gordon awoke early, opened the drapes and looked out upon the dump, blurting out “Oh, no, we got the terrible view.”
Dr. Wilson, just awakening, immediately responded, “Isn’t that wonderful! It means that some of the brothers and sisters from the Third World who have so little will get a chance to enjoy a beautiful sight this morning.”
Gordon later commented on this gentle rebuke, “Almost never do I forget Dr. Wilson’s words and his attitude when I feel the temptation to complain about something that does not seem in alignment with my best interests.”
Let’s face it. Most of us do not automatically respond with such gestures of selfless consideration. And yet, we could. The assumption of others as better than ourselves could be our default reaction, rather than our try-hard reaction.
But only as we have the mind of Christ.
The apostle Paul admitted that this mindset was a struggle for him to achieve as well. Earlier in this passage he asks God to let him do nothing out of selfish ambition (translated from the Greek word epithelia, which means jockeying for position or acclaim) or vain conceit (translated from the Greek word kenodoxia which means empty praise or jealousy). He then urges us all to consider others in advance of our own concerns.
That’s exactly the way my seminary mentor Dr. Wilson lived, and thus the first words out of his mouth that early morning (when he was barely awake) were joy that someone else would get the best view.
Perhaps it would be helpful to review what the first generation of Christ-followers did in response to words that many of them actually heard Jesus say in person. A document from the philosopher Aristides in 125 AD described them this way:
“They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that has, distributes liberally to him who has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a person that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”
If we are to live the words found in Philippians 2, we must obviously look after our own interests, which is not usually much of a stretch. But our primary focus should be first and always to look after the interests of others, considering them more important, more worthy.
Christ did that for you and me.
Will we follow Him and do likewise?
Litany of Humility
“O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, O Jesus.
That others may be esteemed more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. AMEN.”
Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930)
under the mercy, Cindy